Why Should You Encourage Healthy Sleep Habits?

Aline HuberEducational Material

Many parents believe that their child’s play and exposure to diverse learning activities are more important than sleep, regardless of their child’s age.

Yes, play is important! It encourages children to explore the world around them. It helps them build physical and social skills. It develops communication and language skills. However, it cannot take the place of sleep in the baby’s development.

About a decade ago, many parents were taught that babies always needed to be stimulated. The more stimulation they receive, the better. That helps their brains develop properly. This philosophy has pushed many new moms and dads to engage their babies with toys that vibrate, whistle, hum, blink, or murmur.

In fact, several studies have confirmed that among the most important means to promote a baby’s brain development is sleep. Constant stimulation leaves little room for sleep, and it can also lead to overstrain.

Developing Healthy Sleep Habits

According to many neuroimaging studies, your brain is less effective when you’re tired. You may lack focus, feel easily irritable, and your thoughts may wander. Sleep is the main factor that keeps the mind bright, focused, and at peace. It restores the brain’s energy and strength, enhancing its power. 

Newborns usually don’t have challenges when it comes to healthy sleep. Their sleep comes easily and naturally without much work. But, as they grow and their brain matures, their sleep patterns further develop and change. The changes may lead to “day/night confusion” and usually appear when the child is a few weeks old. 

What is “day/night confusion”? 

This refers to that period when the baby sleeps for long hours during the day and stays awake for a long time at night. 

Do you think that healthy sleep habits develop on their own? 

It may come as a surprise, but you are the one to help your baby develop healthy sleep habits. You can shape your child’s sleep patterns and rhythms into sleep habits.

So, waiting for your baby to fall asleep when he’s exhausted from too much play or overstimulation doesn’t encourage healthy sleep habits! Being overtired can make your child less alert and inattentive. This can interfere with his learning abilities and social skills (how he interacts with others).

Thus, don’t take it as a norm that all children are naturally over-active, irritable, or fussy in the evenings. The truth is that well-rested babies don’t behave this way!

Good Sleep Leads to Calm Baby

Why do babies cry when sleepy?

Take the example below to understand it better:

What happens when you are sleep-deprived (having fewer bedtime hours than your body needs)? 

Normally, you would be quick to anger, impatient, or irritable. And, as your sleepiness adds up, you may become too tired so that you are unable to sleep or relax. 

The same is true for infants.When tired, they become irritable and get upset easily.

So, don’t mislabel your overly-tired baby as “clingy” or “irritable.” Chances are he could be the sweetest, most playful child around, given that he sleeps and rests well.

Getting enough sleep is vital for your little one. It helps your child:

  • Develop empathy
  • Control his impulses
  • Learn the consequences of his actions
  • Develop abstract thinking

Sleeping Well is a Skill to Learn

You should not assume that your baby’s sleeping problems are normal.The truth is, all children can start learning to sleep well after 6 months of age. Learning should happen as naturally as learning how to sit in a chair.